The Corporatorium: Ghost, Meet Devil (Episode 5)


"Let me start by thanking everyone for taking time out from client work to join this web cast," Capital B began.  "I know there's lots of fear and anxiety out there and everyone wants to know what 'our numbers' are but I want to dispense with our usual agenda and PowerPoint presentation because I have some good news to share.  As you know, we've been through a difficult year, requiring us all to work harder and make some difficult decisions.  We feel things are beginning to turn around and I have some news that I'm very excited to share and which I'm sure you'll be very excited about as well.

"I'd like to introduce Brett Butler—our newest strategic hire and a hire I am personally very excited about.  Brett has joined our practice as Vice President, Key Creative Strategist and Chief Innovation Officer.  Brett comes to us from—" And here she named a Wall Street firm so big, its recent collapse had crippled financial markets around the globe and opened the door to the what would become known as THE GREAT RECESSION.

"In this role, Brett will be responsible for our performance and overall success in our target market by ensuring achievement of revenue and P&L targets through the offering of innovative solutions while maintaining the highest standards of professionalism and business ethics…And now I'll turn the microphone over to Brett so he can say a few words. Brett."

"Well hello everyone!" he practically screamed with joviality and good fellowship. "I'm so happy to be here! I can't wait to meet everyone!  I know we have a very talented group of individuals working for the firm and I'm sure that together we can take the firm to the next level!"

Diana Prince-King @TAFKAP
Oh Brother!

Xavier Jiménez @Madame X
Why does he speak in exclamation points?

Nigel Gale @MannequinMan
I hate him already.

"My long-term goal is to create a results-driven, customer focused/solutions oriented environment, which holds every team member accountable for delivering individual and market results.  My immediate goal is to create a suite of service offerings that are marketing-backed, behavior-driven, multi-platformed, and solutions-focused.  As a team I'll want us to leverage our talent to the greatest extent possible, while constantly measuring our impact, on behavior, on each client's bottom-line and on our revenue and P&L targets.  We need to do all of this so we can move from engagement to the next level which is activation!"

"Activation?" dozens of fingers tweeted simultaneously.

Diana Prince-King @TAFKAP
What does that even mean?

Prometheus Jones @Theus 
Means he's an idiot!

Nigel Gale @MannequinMan
Clearly the emperor has no clothes on but leadership will think they're seeing their own stupidity rather than his naked ass.

Diana Prince-King @TAFKAP 
He's brilliant.  Or not.  I can't decide…

Brooklyn Sudano @Brooklyn NY
He's full of shit.

Xavier Jiménez @Madame X
We have just been introduced to the Devil.

"Okay, I think I've said enough for now!” Brett boomed after a silence that was all too brief, “I'm looking forward to meeting everyone in the coming weeks. Can't wait to be begin solutioning with you! Ciao!"

"Thank you Brett. Isn't he great?" Capital B asked adoringly, rhetorically.

She brought the web cast to a close with these words which stuck terror in the hearts of each and every one of us: "We will be visiting all locations in the next few weeks."

Xavier Jiménez @Madame X

Brooklyn Sudano @Brooklyn NY
A road trip.  Oh, say it ain't so!

Nigel Gale @MannequinMan
My scalp itches.

Xavier Jiménez @Madame X
That is so not funny.

The last time Capital B had scheduled a series of "road trips" panic had raced around the country landing in each city days before her plane touched down.  Her first stop had been the New Jersey office where Richard, Brooklyn and Xavier worked supporting the New York office and us.  This was supposed to be an unannounced visitation but, the grapevine being what it was, every mushroom knew the exact time and date of her arrival almost as soon as her plans were finalized. We also knew she was being accompanied by the New York Local Practice Leader.

Richard, the “interim” Local Practice Leader in New Jersey, boldly told everyone he was about to be promoted to Local Practice Leader by formal decree.

"This is so not good," Brooklyn told Xavier.

"What are you talking about?" Xavier, a bright but somewhat naïve woman, asked.  "Richard says they're coming to promote him."

"They are not coming to promote Richard."

"Okay Chicken Little then why are they coming?"
"To fire us!"

"Oh, c'mon Brooklyn."

Just then they received an urgent text: "Lizzie Borden is also coming."  So it would be The Three Horsewomen Of The Apocalypse—Fear, Chaos and Panic; that changed everything.

Staring at her phone, Xavier said, "Well, this changes everything.  Oh! Poor Richard!"

"Forget Poor Richard," Brooklyn snapped. "What about poor us?"

"We need to do something! Oh God, how am I gonna pay my mortgage?" Xavier started to cry. 

Xavier was secretive, unknowable as a ghost. She never talked about her life outside of work. In fact, her mention of a mortgage was the most personal information she'd disclosed in her nearly five years with the Corporation.

"Stop it!" Brooklyn snapped again.  "Let me think for a minute."

"What are we gonna do?" Xavier wailed, then caught herself.  "Whatever it is Brooklyn, I'm in."

Brooklyn was an aging force to be reckoned with, as ruthless as her namesake. Once she’d insulted Barbara the second during an argument. Barbara the second, thin-skinned and of delicate sensibilities had asked tearfully, “Why are you such a bitch?”

Brooklyn had barked, “Because I’m from Brooklyn.”

Because I’m from Brooklyn? Really? What kind of answer is that?” Barbara the second had wailed as Barbara the first put a consoling arm around her and murmured comfortingly to her in Harvard-educated tones.

Now, Brooklyn, came up with a plan. "No one—not even Lizzie Borden—could fire someone who was quite possibly fatally ill, right?"

"Brooklyn! You're not suggesting we pretend to be dying, are you?"

"No!  Don't be ridiculous.  That would be dishonest.  No, we just need to create the suggestion of illness, drop the slightest hint that maybe, just maybe…"

Thus, in a preemptive strike, on the day of the visitation, both Brooklyn and Xavier shaved their heads and powdered their faces until they looked like anemic Geishas, and donned demure but brave pink sundresses with pink ribbons adorning their bound bosoms.

And so it was poor Richard, with his healthy ruddy complexion, full head of hair, and pumped up pecs, who was let go that day.

Missed Episode 4, The Workplace of the Future? Read it here.

Copyright © 2016 Larry Benjamin

The characters and events described in this blog post exist only in its pages and the author's imagination.

Feel free to comment on this story, or share your own experiences in Corporate America below. Also, connect with me on Twitter & Facebook


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